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'Dragons' Den bosses warned us about changing our offer two days before filming'

Princess Beatrice is an investor in streaming service Sooper Books

Simon Hood and Charlene Mitchell-Hood appearing on Dragons' Den. (BBC)
Simon Hood and Charlene Mitchell-Hood appearing on Dragons' Den. (BBC)
  • Married couple Simon and Charlene Mitchell-Hood made Dragons’ Den history as all five dragons invested in their business for a 1% share at £1 each. Their business Sooper Books aims to offer the world’s best storybook streaming service, making reading exciting for children and effortless for parents.

  • Their unusual offer, rhyming pitch and Dragons' Den short story made them stand out, winning them the hearts of the dragons. But even before the den, Princess Beatrice was an investor in Sooper Books.

We didn’t decide to make the £1 offer until two days before we went to film Dragons’ Den.

Before that, we had created the whole pitch and we were talking to the producers about a completely different offer.

When we researched the show — and they tell you this as well — there’s a sweet spot of the amount of money that people ask for that tends to get deals. For us, that amount of money wasn’t going to change our business. The other thing we looked at was the amount of equity you have to give away. We thought, how do we get into a position where we get a dragon for the least amount of equity that we can?

At the last minute, we had this idea and it had to be escalated to the head producer to ask them if they were allowed to do it. There was a 24-hour period where we had to wait to find out whether we could change our offer or not.

We were told by the producer: "This has never been done and it is purely at your own risk. We have absolutely no idea how they’re going to react to it." The other thing we were nervous about was that our offer to them was so different. We knew that before we went in that nobody had ever invested at 1% before. Regardless of the money we had asked for, no-one has ever done it at 1%.

Dragons' Den stars Touker Suleyman, Sara Davies, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Steven Bartlett all invested. (BBC)
Dragons' Den stars Touker Suleyman, Sara Davies, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Steven Bartlett all invested. (BBC)

If you watch all the other episodes where the dragons are saying: "Oh, but it’s not enough for us to get involved or get excited about the business," that was in the back of our minds thinking they were going to say: "We’re just not interested."

But it was everything we had hoped for and more, to get to work with five amazing dragons: Touker Suleyman, Steven Bartlett, Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Sara Davies. It was shocking for us that Touker was the first to make the offer because he’s the guy who says he will not get out of bed for 1%.

Seven months have flown by since we filmed Dragons' Den so it was a whirlwind night watching it all back. Seeing us walk into the den gave us shivers. It was emotional for us, our first night away from our little girl. Of course it is cut down dramatically but we were in the den for over an hour so you never really know how it’s going to be edited.

We knew one hundred percent that the tears would be on the show. They were happy tears because seeing all the dragons at the wall talking about our offer was quite overwhelming. We did worry a little about how it would be edited because we didn’t want it to be a sob story. That’s not us — we are very hard working and we’re incredibly positive people.

Simon Hood and Charlene Mitchell-Hood doing their rhyming pitch on Dragons' Den. (BBC)
Simon Hood and Charlene Mitchell-Hood doing their rhyming pitch on Dragons' Den. (BBC)

Meeting the dragons was a life-changing experience we will never forget.

When we were standing in the foyer and the green light came on, our hearts were racing. The adrenaline was running but we couldn’t have been more prepared. We knew we had to show the dragons our product and we thought the best way to get them immersed in Sooper Books was to write a snippet of a story for them. It was really fun, involving all the dragons in a cave world in a story that was no longer than a minute, although they didn’t show all of it. We came up with it because on our site we have Weirdlife which is a nature mockumentary that plays on David Attenborough. Our narrator even did a take on David Attenborough’s voice.

All the dragons are very good at their poker faces but Deborah was the first one to crack. She gave us a little smile when we were doing the rhyming pitch. That definitely helped us get into that relaxed atmosphere.

It took us two days to write the rhyming pitch but it took a lot longer than that to learn it. There’s a bit of extra pressure when you've got rhymes. It’s all created to be literally syllable by syllable. We had to nail it to make it seamless — even missing one beat, the whole thing just wouldn't work. And when we had to change the offer, we had to change the rhyme too! It was also much longer but it had to be edited down for TV to fit everything into the slot we had.

Dragons' Den stars Simon Hood and Charlene Mitchell-Hood with their three-year-old daughter. (BBC)
Dragons' Den stars Simon Hood and Charlene Mitchell-Hood with their three-year-old daughter. (BBC)

Left, right and centre, we were practising to anyone that would listen to us. Our daughter, who is three, knew it word for word. In the end, she would prompt us if we went wrong - it was hysterical!

We had five hours in the studio and you would think that would ramp up the pressure but it relaxed us. Being in the environment was calming and we had an amazing runner we worked with who probably could reel off the rhyme too because he let us practice with him.

The future is exciting - and having five dragons on this journey with us is incredible. Touker has already hooked us up with different manufacturers. We can’t tell you too much about what we have lined up but it’s very exciting. Steven’s team are on socials, which is a gap for us at the moment. Plus Peter and Deborah are veterans of the show. The contacts all the dragons have are just phenomenal.

Princess Beatrice has been an investor from the start. We couldn't believe a member of the royal family was investing in us. Up until now, we have had to turn down money because we have had so many investors. It just doesn’t seem real at all.

Simon and Charlene Mitchell-Hood told their story to Lily Waddell

Dragons' Den airs on Thursday nights on BBC One.

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